Reptile and amphibian group’s project expands
DO YOU have a pond in your garden or on your farm? And if you have, is it home to any frogs, toads or newts? The Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (KRAG) is looking to build on its survey from last year in which Whitstable’s ponds were examined to see how many four-legged beasts were lurking beneath the surface.
The survey was helped by a story in this newspaper that prompted up to 20 people to get in touch and offer group members the chance to visit their ponds.
Mike Phfflips, of KRAG, said:
“Last year we looked at Whitstable and asked people if we could look at their garden ponds. We tended to find common frogs and smooth newts towards the middle of the town. Urban areas are real stronghold for common frogs — they’re a pioneer species that can use smaller ponds.”
As well as common frogs and smooth newts, last year’s survey unearthed a new great crested newt pond as well as a site hosting the non-native alpine newt.
“There were only two ponds in which we didn’t find any animals at all. It goes to show that if you dig a pond in your garden you will probably attract frogs, whatever its size.”
This year, KRAG is extending its area of search to Herne Bay and the stretch of land south of the old Thanet Way.
“The distribution of amphibians in this area is quite interesting,” said Dr Phillips. “We want to discover how urban areas affect the distribution of these species and how digging ponds impacts on them. There is a population of great crested newts on the edge of Whitstable. They tend to be between the old Thanet Way and the new Thanet Way and were particularly keen to look at this area. We’ve found that great crested newts don’t do so well in dense urban areas as they tend to like larger ponds, although they might be finding their way to garden ponds but breeding in the countryside. There’s also the odd toad recorded and this is something we’d like to find more about.”
The presence of alpine newts, meanwhile, is intriguing.
“We think they were first released in Tyler Hill in the 1960s when people would release things all the time before conservation laws were in place,” said Dr Phillips. The Zoological Society of London is planning to do some DNA sequencing to see if the animals in Whitstable are from the same population as that at Tyler Hill, which has been looked at already. It’s an offence to release alpine newts in this country, although there probably hasn’t been enough research to say if they impact on other species. However, they’re a known carrier of chytrid fungus, which has decimated some species of amphibian, so it’s good to know where these things are.”
• This year’s survey is to be held in March and April. If you are happy for KRAG members to survey your pond, e-mail Mike Phillips at email@example.com or phone him on 07540 250320. Alternatively, phone Claire Browne on 07800 738187.
Herne Bay Times, January 28th 2015